Norway England Wales and the United States

criminal justice system protects the public from criminals and criminal activity by investigating, catching, and thwarting crime. Although some countries have similar methods of punishing criminals and preventing crime, many countries have different methods and strategies. Norway has its own way of handling criminals and criminal investigations that often involves a decentralized police and investigative force. The United States operates via tiered system: federal, state, and local (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2013). England offers a tiered system as well, with most investigative efforts occurring in London. This essay will highlight the differences and similarities of the criminal justice system in England/Wales, the United States, and Norway.



The United States has only been a country for a few centuries. It operates with peace and justice in mind. Operating under three branches of government, the judiciary branch allows for the government to arrest, prosecute, and imprison criminals and criminal suspects. Other government agencies, especially on the federal level, perform investigations to understand and assess situations/problems in the country (Hirschel, Wakefield, & Sasse, 2008. These problems could be regarding the law and fall under an umbrella of categories like the environment, health, and organized crime.


Norway has a similar aspect to its government regarding its judiciary section. However, because Norway is a small country, with a small, fairly homogenous population, the police force operates in a decentralized way (Walgrave, 2003). The same goes for its investigative efforts. This means government agencies are not split into local, state, or federal, but act free from geographical or district limitations.


England/Wales acts within the United Kingdom but has a tiered system for handling criminal cases. Regarding investigative efforts, England has a high number of private investigation agencies with government-run investigative efforts concentrated in London. England’s police force and court system operate on a tiered level with various sub agencies working under a main agency (Barton & Johns, 2013). The next sections will describe in more detail, what similarities and differences England/Wales, the United States, and Norway have regarding their respective criminal justice systems.



The tiered system of the courts is seen in the United States, Norway, and England/Wales. The main differences however, is the focus on certain areas and the means of labeling specific government agencies/bodies. For example, both Norway and the United States have a Supreme Court. This is the highest tier in its court system. Here the justices decide what laws will be upheld by the country. However, unlike the United States, Norway has conciliation boards or an Interlocutory Appeals Committee that allows for examination of the information before it reaches the court. Furthermore, decisions made in the Norwegian Supreme Court are upheld with no chance for appeal or complaint. The only exception is the Court for Human Rights (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2009).


The United States Supreme Court rulings can be overturned by a future U.S. Supreme Court decision or a constitutional amendment. Although similar to the Supreme Court in Norway, no further appeals can occur should a case reach the American Supreme Court. Although England has no Supreme Court, there is a Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This court represents the ultimate court for any civil and criminal matters in Wales, England, and Northern Ireland. This change was made on October 1, 2009 and replaced the judicial functions of the judicial House of Lords. “the Supreme Court has been established to achieve a complete separation between the United Kingdom’s senior Judges and the Upper House of Parliament, emphasizing the independence of the Law Lords and increasing the transparency between Parliament and the courts” (Lee, 2011, p. 37).


Going back to the United States, the court systems operate under the judiciary branch with courts operating at the district, state, and federal level (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2013). Unlike Norway, which has its own section for conciliation, the Supreme Court can decide to take on a case or not, but not operating under a formal agency, separate from the Supreme Court. Both countries, operating independently, use its own judiciary branch to uphold its country’s legislation, unlike England/Wales that operates under the United Kingdom umbrella. “The Judiciary is supposed to comprise a relatively independent branch of government. Its role is to implement legislation adopted by the Storting, but also to monitor the legislative and executive powers to ensure that they comply with the acts of legislation” (Sriramesh & Vercic, 2009, p. 99).



One of three major components in the United States criminal justice system, law enforcement acts semi-independently from its two counterparts, courts, and corrections (Conser, Paynich, & Gingerich, 2013). Law enforcement agencies in the United States operate at the federal, state, and county level. There are sheriffs at the county level, and federal and state police respectively (Conser, Paynich, & Gingerich, 2013). England operates in a similar manner with the centralizing force being the United Kingdom. Additionally, the Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories work with separate police forces that follow the British model (Jackson, Bradford, Stanko, & Hohl, 2012). This is a key difference is these territories do not answer to the British government, but their own.


Norway has a police force that carries out the country’s law enforcement. They operate in a decentralized way. “Norway has a national police force under the Ministry of Justice. The organization of the Norwegian Police is largely based on the principle of a decentralized and integrated police, where all functions of the police are collected in one organization” (Sullivan, Rosen, Schulz, & Haberfeld, 2005, p. 1216). This can be attributed to Norway’s size and population, along with its mainly homogenous citizens. Norway represents a big difference in law enforcement compared to the United States and England and Wales, especially regarding corrections.



Enforcement of laws in England and Wales is similar to the United States in that the general aim is to incarcerate rather than rehabilitate convicted criminals. Although both countries have attempted to take the route Norway has towards rehabilitation, the main problem with law enforcement and enforcement in England and Wales and the United States is the high rate of incarcerations and life sentences. The United States has seen a step increase in incarceration rates in the last few decades alone. “In the near future, demands for harsher punishment most likely will persist, especially for violent offenders. This will continue to push incarceration rates higher and higher, which will create long-term problems not only for corrections departments, but also law enforcement” (Conser, Paynich, & Gingerich, 2013, p. 419).


Norway enforces it laws accordingly, uses the police force and the court system. However, there is no life sentence in Norway. In fact, the maximum prison sentence remains at 21 years (Ugelvik & Dullum, 2012). This can be seen as lenient. However, Norway has a much lower crime rate than its American and British counterparts. Therefore, the differences in enforcement are clear due to the lack of need from reduce crime rates.



The corrections aspect of the criminal justice systems for the United States, Norway, and England and Wales are what create the most differences. Where Norway aims for a restorative means of law enforcement, England and Wales and the United States go for punitive. This means Norway tries to rehabilitate criminals instead of imprisoning them for long periods of time. Although, in recent times and thanks to highly publicized crimes, the Norwegian criminal justice system has changed how they wish to rehabilitate their criminals. “Rehabilitation is still a central goal of the correctional system, though, but it is now inscribed in what we may in Foucauldian terms call an apparatus of governmentality, where prisoners are supposed to learn to govern themselves to become law-abiding citizens” (Ugelvik & Dullum, 2012, p. 209).


Criminals in England, similarly to the United States are punished and sent to jail more than any of its western European counterparts. England has the biggest prison population in western Europe as well as the most living life sentences.


The Council of Europe prison statistics confirm that England and Wales have the highest proportion of prisoners — 10.2% — serving life sentences in Europe. Other European countries do not use such indeterminate sentences in the same way. There were 7,439 life-sentenced prisoners in England and Wales on 1 September 2015 compared with 1,883 in Germany, 1,611 in Italy and 1,804 in Russia”(Travis, 2017).


Additionally, England and Wales operate under a varied police force. Meaning, criminal activities may be monitored and investigated more in certain areas. For example, London has a more dedicate police force than other parts of England. This can lead to a discrepancy in arrests, law enforcement, and so forth.


Investigative Agencies

Investigative Agencies in England and Wales are mostly private. However, there is an investigative agency for crime and criminal activity in London. It is called the Murder Investigation Team. The Ministry of Defense Police works for the United Kingdom to investigate and provide uniformed policing services to Ministry of Defense installations. Of the various collaborative units in England and Wales that investigate for the government, most concentrate their efforts on counter terrorism intelligence.


The United States is similar in their investigations, letting the police force perform criminal investigations. However, the United States government has various government agencies performing investigations from food and safety to the environment. The Federal Bureau of Investigation lends to federal level investigations into a myriad of areas including crime and civil issues. Because the United States is large and has a large population, their efforts towards investigative services serve at mainly the federal level.


Norway, unlike the other two countries, has a distinct and special agency that is part of the Norwegian Police Service. It is called The National Criminal Investigation Service or Kripos. It was established in 1954 and works as a national unit tackling serious and organized crime. They perform tactical and technical investigation. They also serve as the center for worldwide police cooperation including Europol and Interpol. At 500 employees, it represents only 4% of the police force in Norway.



In conclusion, the various laws of the United States, Norway, and England/Wales are upheld by a tiered court system and enforced by varying police agencies. While Norway operates a police force that is decentralized and able to work in all parts of Norway without geographical or district restrictions, the opposite is seen in the United States and to a lesser extent, England. The United States has police at the local (Sheriff), state, and federal level. England has a police force that also operate under district, regional restrictions with centralization occurring at the Supreme Court level. Although some may argue the United States decentralizes its criminal justice system, the structure within such a system is maintained in separate agencies with one central force (federal) overseeing and intervening accordingly. In relation to corrections and enforcement, Norway vies for a restorative approach to criminals with England and Wales, and the United States aiming for punitive measures. Incarceration rates are especially high in the United States.














Investigative Agencies


United States


The Supreme Court Justices control the Supreme Court, and judges below this tier head the appellate courts (U.S. Court of Appeals), followed by District Courts, and Bankruptcy Courts. The last tier is Article I Courts.


The main aspect of law enforcement is police, then courts, and corrections. There are federal, state, and county police, along with Sheriffs. Interestingly, the Puerto Rico police are also included.


Laws are enforced by the police on the local, state, and federal levels. Because policing is part of the criminal justice system with courts and corrections, the courts mainly oversee the enforcement of law followed by police action.


The U.S. has state Adult prison agencies, State Juvenile prison agencies, State Parole/Probation agencies, and Insular Areas Adult prison agencies. Those that violate federal law are placed in federal prison and local jails make up the rest of the corrections systems.


The main investigative agencies in the U.S. are Federal Investigative Agencies. These include the Bureau of Firearms and Explosives, Alcohol, and Tobacco. For criminal investigations, there is the department of Veterans Affairs. Then there is the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There are several more, however, those are the main ones.




At the top is the Lord Chief Justice. Then, four heads of Divisions: Master of Rolls, President of the Queen’s Bench, President of Family, and Chancellor of High Court. Master of Rolls heads the Court of Appeal. The others head the High Court’s three divisions.


Law Enforcement in England is similar to the other countries in the U.K. There are Territorial police services, National law enforcement bodies, and then Miscellaneous police services.


The powers of officers are delegated by Territorial police constables. Accountability comes from her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland.


Most prisons located in England and Wales are run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service. This agency exists as part of National Offender Management Service of Her Majesty’s Government. The ranks have changed with the current 2013 ranks being Operational Support Grade, Prison Officer, Supervising Officer, and Custodial Manager, followed by Specialist Officer.


Most investigations in England are performed privately. However, for crime there is a Murder Investigation Team comprised of specialized homicide squads working in London, England. Most homicide investigation I London happens under the Specialist Crime and Operations Directorate’s Homicide Command.




Norway’s court system has a similar structure to the United States with the Supreme Court at the top. Below that is the interlocutory Appeals Committee, the Courts of Appeal, the District Courts, the Conciliation boards, and then the special courts. Interestingly, the King can pardon criminals.


The main form of law enforcement is the Norwegian Police Service or Norwegian civilian police agency. This agency is made up of seven specialty agencies, twenty-seven police districts, and a central National Police Directorate. Above this agency is the Ministry of Justice and Public Security


Police officers (except military police) are generalized and decentralized. Meaning, they have no sector or geographical limitations regarding their powers.


The government agency for corrections in Norway is the Norwegian Correctional Service. Governed by the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security, it governs the Eastern, Southern, Southwestern, Western, and Northern Regions.


Kripos or the National Criminal Investigation Service, is a special agency belonging to the Norwegian Police Service. Bryn within Oslo, serves as the base location.




Barton, A., & Johns, N. (2013). The policy-making process in the criminal justice system. London: Routledge.


Cole, G. F., Smith, C. E., & DeJong, C. (2013). The American system of criminal justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.


Conser, J., Paynich, R., & Gingerich, T. (2013). Law enforcement in the United States. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.


Hirschel, J. D., Wakefield, W., & Sasse, S. (2008). Criminal justice in England and the United States. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.


Jackson, J., Bradford, B., Stanko, B., & Hohl, K. (2012). Just Authority?: Trust in the Police in England and Wales. Routledge.


Lee, J. (2011). From House of Lords to Supreme Court: Judges, jurists and the process of judging. Oxford: Hart Pub.


Sriramesh, K., & Vercic, D. (2009). The Global Public Relations Handbook, Revised and Expanded Edition: Theory, Research, and Practice. Routledge.


Sullivan, L. E., Rosen, M. S., Schulz, D. M., & Haberfeld, M. R. (2005). Encyclopedia of law enforcement. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.


Travis, A. (2017, March 14). England and Wales have highest imprisonment rate in western Europe | Society | The Guardian. Retrieved from


Ugelvik, T., & Dullum, J. (2012). Penal exceptionalism?: Nordic prison policy and practice. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Walgrave, L. (2003). Repositioning restorative justice. Cullompton: Willan.

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